Chelsea missed a chance to return to the top of the Premiership on Sunday when they crashed to their first defeat of the season, going down 2-0 at Aston Villa.
|Chelsea's striker Didier Drogba|
Missing England midfielder Frank Lampard, who suffered a thigh strain in training on Friday, Chelsea struggled for any attacking rhythm and were beaten by second half goals from debutant central defender Zat Knight and striker Gabriel Agbonlahor.
The result left Chelsea fourth, level on ten points with the leading trio Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton, and one point ahead of fifth-placed Manchester City who lost 1-0 at Blackburn Rovers after a Benni McCarthy strike. Arsenal had earlier beaten Portsmouth 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium despite being reduced to ten men after a 49th minute red card for Swiss defender Philippe Senderos.
Chelsea gave debuts to both of their recently-recruited Brazilian defenders, right-back Juliano Belletti and centre-back Alex, and dominated the game for long periods. But they were unable to turn possession into shots and fell behind when Knight, a boyhood Villa fan signed from Fulham, headed in from an inswinging corner by Gareth Barry after 47 minutes.
Chelsea threw everything into attack for the remainder of the game including using captain England centre-back John Terry as an auxiliary striker without reward. Villa scored their second in the 88th minute when Ashley Young, called up by England on Friday for the first time, ran past Belletti on the wing and from his driven cross Agbonlahor shot crisply beyond keeper Petr Cech.
It was Chelsea's first defeat in 19 league outings and extended their unwanted run at 'bogey' ground Villa Park to nine matches without a win. The Birmingham stadium also remains the only one in the Premiership where Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has not tasted victory.
Mourinho said: "It was a good game between two good teams, but the result was one that Chelsea did not deserve. We deserved to score a goal and to score a point. Their second goal was out of context because we were chasing and it came in the last minute."
Arsenal were two goals ahead at the interval thanks to an eighth minute penalty from Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor and a 35th minute close-range finish by Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas. Senderos was sent off for a tackle on former Arsenal forward Nwankwo Kanu, but the hosts refused to buckle.
Tomas Rosicky, their fluent Czech Republic midfielder, added a third from close range after 59 minutes following a quickly-taken free-kick by Fabregas. Portsmouth replied when Kanu managed luckily to flick the ball into the net as he tried to control it just 18 seconds later.
Pompey were without 32-year-old central defender Sol Campbell, due to an injury that his manager Harry Redknapp expects will force him, like Lampard, to pull out of the England squad for next weekend's UEFA EURO 2008 qualifier against Israel at Wembley.